GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS
Opera House, Manchester
Until Saturday 30th March 2019
First staged in the National Theatre’s intimate Cottesloe Theatre back in 1983, David Mamet’s celebrated, Pulitzer Prize-winning dark comedy is a slick and sharp satire on greed, corruption and The American Dream, set within the cut-throat, high pressure world of sales.
Sam Yates’ polished revival enjoyed a successful West End run in late 2017, featuring a cast including Christian Slater and Robert Glenister, and is now out on tour across the UK with a new cast led by Nigel Harman and Mark Benton.
Glengarry Glen Ross is the tale of four rival Chicago sales agents pitched in a high-stakes monthly competition to sell undesirable real estate opportunities to naive prospective buyers and work their way up the commission board. The salesman who closes the most deals by the end of the month takes home a brand new Cadillac, and goes into top contention for the lucrative prime leads. Though to get there, these ruthless and increasingly desperate men will do whatever it takes to get the job done, legal or otherwise. All that matters is closing the deal.
The play’s relatively short first act is presented as a series of three consecutive duologues – all taking place at the same booth in a rather dingy Chinese restaurant – and introduces us to each of the key characters in turn, building the foundations for what is to come. It is a rather sluggish (and very wordy) opening, and can feel a little too stilted, but the lengthy monologues reveal just what makes these characters tick and exactly how far they are willing to go to succeed, as well as showcasing Mamet’s precise, rapid-fire wordplay.
An unusually longer second act is however a far more dynamic and compelling affair, and takes us right into the heart of the sales office. The principle focus of the act sees a police detective questioning each of the salesman over a break-in at the office and the disappearance of the expensive prime leads, however it also gives the audience a chance to see the aggressive salesman at work as ruthless hot-shot Ricky Roma (Harman) attempts to connive and smooth-talk a timid new client from backing out on a lucrative deal.
There are some very strong performances on show, particularly from Denis Conway, Mark Benton and Scott Sparrow, however American accents do slip from time to time, and some of the cast tend struggle with the playwright’s signature ‘Mamet speak’ dialogue.
At its best, Yates’ production is slick and very well staged, with the second act making excellent use of Chiara Stephenson’s immersive and evocative office set. Stephenson’s elaborate and incredibly detailed designs are arguably the stars of the show and give the piece a real sense of dimension, though her superb Chinese restaurant set is sadly underused.
Mamet’s timely black comedy drama remains a classic of modern theatre, and offers a scathing look at capitalism, corruption and corporate survival, but this production doesn’t always showcase the multi-award-winning play at its searing best.
Running Time: 1 hour and 45-minutes (approx.), including one 20-minute interval.
Final Performance at the Opera House, Manchester: Saturday 30th March 2019
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